In 2011, Steve Jobs described Apple products as the intersection of technology and liberal arts—this is part of why the original Apple line (iPod, iPad, and then iPhone) all fascinated us. These were products that did something different with technology that we had never experienced before. We now listened to music, played games, created music, and even designed and painted in a different and new way. Jobs believed the future of technology would become “post-PC” and we would interact with technology in a whole new way.
Changing Our Relationship With Technology
Many of the “early adopters” that I worked with loved the iPad 2. They were expensive, but they offered a many opportunities for students to create, design, and engage. Instead of a worksheet, students were making iMovies, stop motion movies, GarageBand tracks, or even publications on Pages. There was a high level of thinking going on with these projects.
Teachers who weren’t used to teaching this way may have hesitated to jump on the bandwagon with iPads. They weren’t able to do some of the things the same way they always have, which can be frustrating for teachers who are hesitant to change. I recall questions like, “Are we getting Microsoft Word on these?” and “How do we have them write a paper?” Although writing a paper is still a valuable skill, the iPads were really a tool to learn in a completely different manner.
Chromebooks: The New “Thing” for EdTech
Over the past few years, Chromebooks have replaced iPads in many schools. There are several reasons for this change: cost; ease of use, repair, and management; and the ability to integrate with Google Classroom, just to name a few.
As I have witnessed this swing toward iPads and now back away from them, I have found that it hasn’t necessarily been beneficial for student learning. Chromebook vs. iPad is not the problem—in the end, the teacher decides on the level of student learning. But, without even meaning to, teachers who use Chromebooks run the risk of missing opportunities with students.
Here are top three dangers of moving to Chromebooks:
- Teaching at a lower level of thinking: When students experience Google Classroom, they are in a very “familiar” area of learning. Teacher-led assignments come in the form of a “sheet” or “document.” There are maybe blanks to fill in and comments to be made—all of this is great and engaging for gaining knowledge, but how do we use it to get students to higher levels of thinking (creating, evaluating, and analyzing)? It is possible to do this, but, in my opinion, hard to do with a Chromebook. While using an iPad, many of these types of options were not conducive to learning, so teachers would have to gather information in the form of a project, such as a movie or a song. These apps that students used on iPads still (mostly) work with Chromebooks, but are not as functional without a touch screen, high-level camera, and the ease of use of the tablet devices.
- Substitution (SAMR) is much easier: Transferring worksheets from a paper system to an electronic system is not “innovative” in any way. A worksheet can still be a worksheet, even if it doesn’t come from a copy machine. With Google Classroom, it is very easy for teachers to upload their handouts, notes, and worksheets. This ease of use is one of the selling points of Chromebooks, but what can happen in this circumstance is that teachers don’t actually change how they teach—they simply teach the same way without paper. Here are some great ideas for working to solve this problem, regardless of the device.
- Fewer creative apps are available: Most of the apps that we use now on the Chromebooks help us to manage the classroom and facilitate traditional learning. The camera and video capabilities are one definite difference. Also—and this could come from a perspective that is too limited—the apps that we found and used in the iTunes store were more robust for the money than those we found in the Google Play store. One example would be something like Strip Designer. Compared to the closest alternative I could find (Comic Strip It!), the ability for students to be truly creative is really lacking. This may not be the case across all apps and all different subject areas, but it felt as though Apple was really feeding a demand in the educational market. For Google, it definitely does not feel like a primary area of focus.
In conclusion, are Chromebooks and Google Classroom bad? Of course not! Teachers only need to be aware of the dangers that lurk to tempt them back into the same old habits of teaching at the lower levels that existed before devices in the classroom.
We have lots of great blogs and resources to help you effectively use and incorporate these devices and applications. Click here for ideas and guidance!>>